0815VL_Breves_solar_panels_r900x493The obvious environmental benefits of solar power may soon improve community health as well. California will allocate $100 million dollars every year to install rooftop solar panels on low-income communities if the governor approves new legislation.

Residential photovoltaics (PV) are still expensive to install, despite down-the-road savings on utility bills, but the new program will save money for low-income recipients as well as many other members of the community.

200,000 low-income households may receive financial assistance for solar panels, reducing their electricity costs by 30-50%.

The bill, Assembly Bill 693, also provides benefits to property owners and solar developers. Property owners will pay less for energy bills and may have a lower tenant vacancy rate if it is easier for families to afford housing.

In San Diego, low-income residents already receive a 35% discount on their electricity bills, so those who pay for those subsidies will also save money as solar power replaces electricity by power plants.

California will pay for the program with profits from greenhouse gas auctions. Utility companies will buy pollution allowances that benefit customers by financing green energy projects and “climate credits”, paid out twice every year to offset clients’ electricity bills.

Due to California’s other solar subsidy programs, 6,771 families have already experienced the benefits of solar power with MASH, a Californian program that subsidized residential PV.

The state legislature has passed the billion-dollar bill, which contains a slew of green energy solutions, and is now waiting for the governor to sign it. Unfortunately, the specifics of the program have not yet been defined by the California Public Utilities Commission, so the legislation may not come up again until 2017.

Image (c) Hayne Palmour IV/U-T San Diego

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